MILAN — Cédric Charlier has been hearing an inner voice for a very long time — a voice that echoes the wishes of his customers who have been asking for a men’s collection. And in January, he’ll answer that call when he introduces a men’s wear line that will be shown alongside his women’s collection.
“This step is in the name of creativity,” said the young designer at the stately Milan showroom of Aeffe, the Italian fashion group that signed a licensing agreement for his women’s line in January 2012 and will also take on Charlier’s men’s wear. “I really trust Aeffe and there is no better person than [executive chairman] Massimo Ferretti to understand my work,” he said.
In an exclusive interview that took place before he showed his combined women’s pre-collection and spring collections in New York earlier this month, the Belgian designer defined his latest moves as “a gesture toward my customers. It’s what makes the most sense to me and what I need. I am taking the time to think out the product, fueling my independence of expression.”
“I believed in the talent and vision of Cédric Charlier from the start,” said Ferretti. “We have been producing his line for four years now and his work has very much grown and matured. He has built a very precise aesthetic that has a loyal, supporting customer and finally the moment has come to consistently expand his brand with his longtime dream: to create a men’s collection. It is not difficult to imagine Charlier’s man as a natural extension of the women’s collection.”
Charlier was clearly upbeat. “I’m happy, I’m finally realizing my dream. I’ve wanted to do a men’s collection since the very beginning.”
A former Cacharel creative director, Charlier also previously worked at Céline under Michael Kors and Jean Paul Knott and with Alber Elbaz at Lanvin. While some of his staples, such as geometric cuts and a strong use of color, will translate into men’s wear, the designer highlighted how this will be a “totally different way to create,” thinking of his own needs as a man.
What does he think men need today? “Classic clothes with a twist, sporty yet sophisticated,” he said, claiming that men are “very different from before. Of course, they still need suits but these have evolved as the use of suits is different. They are more casual and more urban — light, practical and with a comfortable fit.”
Charlier is planning 50 looks for fall, with a strong focus on fabrics. He will also design accessories, but said he is taking the collection one step at a time. “I really want to plant the seed of a ready-to-wear line.”
Men’s and women’s wear are “perfectly complementary,” said the designer. Accordingly, he believes “it makes more sense” to show the categories together starting in January, although he underscored he believed there are “no rules” for designers. Asked if he thought men’s wear was suffering at the moment, with many brands in transition, Charlier said he was “not worried. This is a very good and interesting moment.”
Ferretti said he believed the men’s wear line will be “an important challenge” for Charlier as a designer and as a brand “and also very stimulating for Aeffe,” which, after producing the Jean Paul Gaultier men’s line for years and having recently returned to the production of the Moschino men’s collection, “is increasingly specializing in this segment that is surely very interesting for a manufacturer.”
As for the see-now-buy-now discussion, Charlier said it was “not part of my philosophy.” That said, he will design an exclusive, limited number of pieces that will be available after the show.
The designer’s women’s line is carried by more than 200 multibrand retailers, including Barneys New York, Dover Street Market and Printemps.